Jan 082014

So here it is…

find a church
take Beth on a date at least 6 times.
observe a ‘no TV’ night every week
oversee the construction of our new house

cycle with Beth 20-ish or more miles three or more times in 2014
run a sub-20 minute 5k
strength train at least 30 minutes 2 or 3 days every week.
take a few boxing lessons before beginning boxing related cross training workouts
get a heavy punching bag for our workout room at the new house
Look into cycle trainers  – use our own bikes on a stationary platform that provides [variable] resistance.

eat no desserts on nights Beth works.
drink no pop in January and February.

earn 1 new NMRA AP certificate.
learn layout design software e.g. 3rd-Planit or similar
complete an HO Scale B30-7A project (BN 4009)

Dialing back my enthusiasm for structured model railroad hobby goals and marathoning.    I’m not saying I’m done with running marathons, I just want to have the time to commit to be sure I can break 4:00.  This year does not look like it will lend itself to that.  Also, treadmill boredom and a lifelong of curiosity have lead me to resolve to explore boxing.   As a late-30 something, this might well be called crazy, but so can be running 26.2 miles.


Jan 082014

Ugh.  I only did one of these things in 2013.  I knew that this list was a little aggressive when I wrote it, but then when I wrote it, we weren’t expecting twin baby daughters, either.  Not that I blame Twin A and Twin B, or The Boy 2.5 for my failure in these items.  Many of which were and are fully within my control.

So, at least my wife would have said at the in the first half of the year that I was on a great trajectory.

  • Take my wife on a date at least 6 times.   Done.
  • Run a marathon in less than 4 hours.
  • Weigh less than 200 lbs at Marathon start time.
  • Eat no desserts on nights Beth works.
  • Have a photo published in Model Railroader’s Trackside Photos section.
  • Earn at least 2 new NMRA AP certificates.
  • Observe a ‘no TV’ at least one night every week.
  • Find a church.
  • Be able to do 10 pull-ups by July 1 and 20 by Dec 31.
  • Be able to do 40 push ups at one time by Dev 31.
Sep 042013

Those of you that know me have been following the wild ride that Mrs. Dakotabranch and I have been on this summer and early fall.  The end result of this will be very positive.  However, there is some unavoidable short term unpleasantness associated with our situation.

Due to our situation, I’ll be sitting out this year’s Sioux Falls half-marathon.    I never planned to run the whole marathon, but was looking forward to a 13.1, or Harry as some people call it.  Half the distance, twice the fun?

But not when you have the crud in your lungs during the week before the race, as I do right now.  It has been there since 8/22.

That brings me to my next point, which is the importance of keeping a running log.   I use an Excel spreadsheet.  I know some people like to use those fancy-schmancy ones from their Garmin, RunKeeper, iPhone, whatever.   I’ve found that I can enter data about how I feel, how well certain clothing works in the cold weather and info about new shoes.  This spreadsheet helps me recall how long I’ve been under the weather.

This stuff doesn’t plot on a graph well, but it sure is nice to have.  The process of updating it doesn’t become a burden because I’m motivated to see how many miles I’ve got left this month.   So I’m never more than a day or two late putting in run data.

All this in addition to having the benefit of motivating me to run the miles I want to.   Last year was the first year I recorded every run.   I almost made 1,300 miles in 2012.   We’ll see what The Twins have to say about 1,200 in 2013 when they are born.  Right now I’m on pace to easily make that number by new year’s eve.



May 142013

Yes, I did it.   I finished the Brookings Marathon in 4:24:00.   I did not join the DNF list.   I’m not particularly happy with the time, but all things considered, I’m satisfied.   Perhaps best of all, the shirt this year, a technical shirt again, is kind of a pale royal blue with

By the 20th mile or so, I was off pace and busy making up excuses why I didn’t finish in less than 4 hours.

So here goes a couple that I can think of

  • I didn’t sleep well in the week or two leading up to the race.   I’ve been preoccupied with other subjects that have kept me from good sleep.  Nothing that are huge worries, just general pre-occupations
  • I was unable to train as vigorously as with the last two marathons.  My circumstances last year allowed me to do two-a-days.   But that is no longer the case.
  • It was very windy in Brookings on marathon Saturday.    Some of the course is protected from the wind, but other places are not.
  • I don’t pay enough attention to my diet.   I’ve said in the past that I like to eat, so I must run.  It is true that I have a healthier diet now than 10 years ago, but I could do better.  But I will never give up spaghetti with made with hot Italian sausage.
  • I have an almost two-year-old in the house.  He’s the Prince of Cuteness right now and Mrs. Dakotabranch and I agree that the more time we put into him now, the better he’ll turn out later.   Having him around makes finding time for long runs a little more difficult.

I guess I’m proud to say I am now a three time marathon finisher.

Happy rails.

May 062013

I haven’t written much on running lately because there hasn’t been much to write about.  It seems every time I step out for a run lately, I tell myself it is the last time I’ll be wearing warm clothing.  Even in South Dakota, snow should not be allowed after May 1st.   But that’s what we had.   Perhaps in spite of it, I logged 31 miles last week.

But that’s about all I’m going to do before Brookings Marathon on May 11th.   Most marathon training plans call for a buildup to a weekly long run of around 20 miles three weeks before a race.  I’ve done that, but with as little training as I’ve gotten besides a couple insanely long runs.  My average during the week run have been varying between 5 and 7 miles a day.  Mostly seven.  I’m at 443.5 training miles since Jan 1 2013, so I feel I have it in the bank to finish the 26.2 mile run at Brookings.

This running has been evenly divided between treadmill and open road miles.   I really don’t mind either one that much.   But when it is cold, dark and icy like it was a lot this January and February, I opt to stay in and listen to podcasts and music MP3s on the treadmill.

The weather is still a little sketchy for Marathon Saturday, so I’ll have to wait a little longer to lay out my race day apparel.  I’m a firm believer in nothing new on race day, so I’ll be only choosing from stuff I’ve run long in during past runs.

BTW, does anybody know what the Brookings Marathon race shirt looks like this year?   If you know, you can tell me, but part of the fun is the suspense that exists before actually seeing it in my packet.

If you are running the 2013 edition, good luck!   And if you see me, stop me and say ‘hello’!

Apr 232013

I have been considering purchasing a smartphone for a long time.  In January 2013, our two year contract was ending with Sprint.  So we were free to make a decision regarding our wireless carrier and new phones.   I bought us a couple old used Motorola Razr flip phones.   These were at one time a big fashion statement but are now more of a status symbol of the notoriously frugal.

To make a long story short, we purchased an affordable Android device for my wife for use on our PagePlus Cellular plan.   We can pre-purchase air time and data.   The main rationale for this was her use of the texting features.  And we also have a trip planned to Colorado this summer, so having that as a navigation aide will also be nice.   I’ve decided to stick with my old RAZR for now, but have not ruled out a smartphone in the future.

There are a couple smartphone applications that apply to my leisure time interests.  Model Railroading, Cycling and Running.

Model Railroading

The first is a JMRI mobile interface application.  Java Model Railroad Interface is open-source software that allows pretty much any DCC system on the market today to be connected to a computer.  There is some cheap intermediate hardware needed, but the concept is that any computer can be connected to the command station.   One can do things like program decoders and operate locomotives from a computer without the DCC system’s throttle.

The JMRI people have extended the throttle piece to a mobile app.   The phone connects via WIFI to the computer that is connected to the DCC system.   Then the computer sends out signals out over the DCC command bus to the locomotive.    The result is that you can run trains from your phone.   Nevermind I already have two expensive Digitrax throttles.   But this isn’t such madness to the guys who don’t want to invest in a bunch of throttles for every one of 10 or 12 guys that come to operating sessions on their layouts.   It seems that smartphones are more prolific every day.  So this might work out for guys that operate regularly.


The second application is in running.   A colleague recently demonstrated the MapMyRun.com application to me.   The app tracks your distance and pace by using built-in GPS.   It also has  a neat little feature that allows you to run out into an unfamiliar area.  When you are ready to turn around, it helps you get back to where you started.   Handy for those that want to put their long runs in when traveling in unfamiliar territory.  Of course the runs can be recorded on the user’s account on the MapMyRun.com website.

The GPS piece is a nice feature to have, but I live in residential area that is very close to some very neat and very dimensional mile roads.  It is easy for me to count miles without the aid of GPS.   Of course I am in the dark when it comes to speed and pace  but I wear a heart monitor, which probably is more important than pace anyway.  And my Polar RS300 does keep track of mile splits, so I know instantly at the end of mile, or within the mile where I’m at.

One big drawback I’ve heard from other runners about any GPS-enabled running aide-type device is that they are very hard on batteries.   I’d hate to miss a call because I’ve been on a run and I have a low battery b/c I forgot to charge my phone the night before!


Same as running above, but substitute MapMyRide.com for MapMyRun.com.


I don’t really have time for some of the other stuff a smartphone offers, nor do I welcome the added expense.  And to think of running with an expensive phone tied to my arm isn’t exactly enticing either.  So for now, I’ll wait to see what else develops in the market.  It will be fun to find out what my wife thinks of her phone.

Apr 202013

I got out for my second insanely long run leading up to Brookings Marathon today.  I did the bike trail loop in Sioux Falls again.  It was 15 degrees when I stepped out this morning, so my body performed MUCH better than last time.   I was able to cover the 19.45 mile distance in a measly 2 hours, 53 minutes and some odd seconds.  I’m pretty happy with that based on how little I’ve trained so far.  I took my Sansa Clip+ MP3 player with me this time, but I played no music.   I listened to three podcasts.

So here’s my playlist for today

Marathon Training Academy – Angie and Trevor reviewed their experience at The Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon 2013.  We can relate to Trevor an Angie quite well as they are raising a young family and are putting on a really good show and helping people to reach their marathon and half marathon goals.   It doesn’t hurt that both Angie and my wife are nurses.  The New Orleans RNR Marathon sounded like a lot of fun.

The Model Railcast Show – Episode 183 –  The hosts talked about some best practices with wiring for DCC.  Most of this I know, but there are always some tips to pick up here and there.   And it never hurts to review stuff I already know about wiring for DCC.  It befuddles me to learn of veteran model railroaders that still insist on skimping on wiring under their layouts, even when running DCC.  I know at least one of them.  20 or 22 ga. bus wires are NOT heavy enough for DCC.  Ugh.

Runner Academy with Matt Johnson – Episode RA019 – Matthew interviewed Dick Beardsley, who was in his time, a dominant marathon runner.  Dick has a very inspirational story of starting out as a back of the packer in high school cross country.  He tells the story of coming from that level of ability all the way to being a elite marathoner.   Dick also tells the story of addiction to prescription drugs after a series of four separate accidents that nearly took his life.

All in all, it was a fabulous run.  The weather was beautiful this morning (the sun went away by lunchtime), the company was great and I learned a thing or two from each podcast.

Mar 302013

Those of you who are familiar with Sioux Falls, SD may know that the city boasts and extensive bike trail and greenway system.   Of all the amenities in the city, my wife and I enjoy this one during good weather the best.  Perhaps what you didn’t know is that the bike trail forms a loop of 19.45 miles around the city.   There are a couple spurs also that add even more length to the trail.  The 19.45 mile loop is uninterrupted by traffic in only two places.  Additionally, since the loop essentially follows the Big Sioux River around town, it is more or less a water-line route with only one hill even worth mentioning.

Sioux-Falls-Bike-TrailThe Sioux Falls bike trail offers a place for a reasonably casual bike ride or one really nice place to train for a marathon.  During the past few years, that pleasure has been interrupted by construction on the city’s sanitary sewer infrastructure and flood control projects.   I’m happy to tell you that the trail is now in as good of shape as it has been in the past 3-4 years.

So on to my training run.  Yesterday.  I started out at 1PM and the winds were already blowing out of the southeast at 10-15MPH, which is not a lot of fun, but at least the temperature was in the low 60’s, so clothing was not really a concern.  I started out at Elmen Park Trailhead on the west side of town, heading north, under the Ellis and Eastern Railroad and over north of the airport and through Sioux Falls’ industrial park.

I was unaware that the public restrooms along the trail would be closed.   I rely on these during long training runs to refill my Amphipod water bottles.  By the time I got around to Falls Park, my bowels were in full G.I. distress mode.  Luckily, the public facilities were open at Falls Park.   But I found them closed at all the stops farther down the line.  This meant I carried a total of probably 28 ounces of water that had to last me 19.45 miles.   Didn’t happen.

I always carry my some cash in my Amphipod belt, so I was able to buy a couple two liter bottles of water at Taylor’s on  south Cliff Ave, which is right off the trail.   But by that time, it was too late and my body was already dehydrated.

That resulted in some cramping in my calves a couple more miles down the trail.  But things began to look up as I turned north.   The wind was at my back and the bottled water began to work through my system.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with my outing.   I was feeling down about the cramping, but thinking about that, those conditions won’t exist in a competitive environment, because Brookings Marathon provides water stations every few miles.

Also, a word to those in training int he Sioux Falls area.  Try the bike trail.  But verify about the facilities first.   And to those thinking about trying the Sioux Falls Marathon, you’ll get a good look at this bike trail if you enter this early fall marathon.  A healthy portion of this event is run over the bike trail in Sioux Falls.

Mar 252013

O'Gorman Shamrock 5K run finishThe O’Gorman Boosters have done it again. Another fine event is in the books. Mrs. Dakotabranch and I both attended the 5K run and chilli feed.
This event runs like a swiss watch every year. The weather was a little cooler, at around 28 degrees and flurries in the air. I think last year it was 65 and sunny.

We were both pleased with our times. I normally take a few days off before a short race like this, but this time I ran a seven miler the day before. I must be in a little better shape than before, because I still turned in a fairly decent time: 22:26.  That was good enough for a 21/204 overall finish.  Mrs. Dakotabranch ran the 5K in 27:38, which impressed me at least. She’s too hard on herself.   Her run was 90th place overall.

My only complaint was not related to the race organization or course.   I had forgotten to put on my heart monitor strap before the start.  I realized this after about the first 900 meters.  Was probably better I didn’t have it anyway to avoid the distraction.

We’ll be back next year.

Mar 222013

Life is a series of choices. I choose to run because it is fun, because it is healthy and because it give me a chance to reflect on what is going on around me. Training for a marathon changes that a bit. I look at it more as a hobby than probably others do. With a 20-something month-old in the house, I cannot afford for it to be anything other than a hobby.

But I’ve been running low on miles this week. And you may remember that Mrs. Dakotabranch and I are signed up for the Shamrock Run 5K in Sioux Falls this weekend. Miles are important to a marathon training regimen. a 5K is 3.1 milles. Before today, my total miles for the week stood at 7.1. Ugh. Normally for a Saturday 5K, I take Thursday and Friday off from any running at all. I can’t do that this week because I’m behind in miles for the week and the month.

So I stepped out into the dark and cold (17 degrees, winds E-6). 7.1 miles on the frozen plain around our small South Dakota town. Did I mention I cannot wait for spring to finally arrive?

I’d still like to run down that 5K goal I have, but it probably won’t happen this time.